There are lots of ways to get great guitar tones, especially within the realms of high-gain heavy rock, hardcore and metal. While stacks, simulators and modelers abound, Joey Sturgis Tones’ Toneforge Menace may just take the cake for speed to excellence. In other words, this plug-in makes achieving great heavy tones ridiculously quick and easy.
It’s this simple. Create a mono or stereo guitar DI input, then instantiate the Toneforge Menace plug-in—VST 2 or 3, AU (as reviewed here) AAX or RTAS. A familiar-looking amp’s control panel then appears with Input Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence and Output Gain parameters. At the GUI’s bottom resides control modules: a pre-amp distortion pedal (green and Tube Screamer-ish); amp module; mic choice (either condenser, MD421 or SM57, each on- or off-axis); EQ module (5-band, with shelves or band-pass on either end); and output limiter. Additionally, there are hidden modules of cabinet selection and Joey’s own “magic sauce”—his perfectly carved-out secret EQ balance for ultra-modern high-gain metallers. Yet there’s even more flexibility, if desired, including I/O level controls, a noise gate, and a tuner. Considering just how much convenience and utility Menace offers, a standalone “guitarist” version (with facilities for playing along to a backing track) might just be in order.
Of course, all of this is for naught if Toneforge Menace doesn’t have “that” sound, and it certainly does. Further, lower gain “brownish” sounds are possible with Menace, and not bad at all; that said, high gain is the raison d'être of this plug-in. Yes, there’s only one amp module, but between mic selection, cabinet selection, EQ and various magics, there’s enough flexibility to distinguish tones, create character and avoid “guitar pile-up” with little effort.
I do sometimes wish I could blend multiple mic choices for a little more flexibility, but carefully blending in some original amp tone sometimes fills this need. I have noticed that the buzz/noise of single coil pickups can get ugly once “Menaced,” so humbuckers may be a requirement for the plug-in (as with high-gain amps).
For $65, Toneforge Menace is an easy choice for modern, aggressive tones plus its wealth of options and convenience factor is off-the-chart appealing. In our world of accelerated digital convenience, there may be no faster way to go from “I’ve got a brutal riff” to “I’ve got a brutal track” than Toneforge Menace.
Joey Sturgis Tones